MOTHERS A SONG FOR WARTIME
About defense mechanisms and responsibility.
About our reaction to a war in Europe.
About the rituals of wartime violence against women and civilians which are unchanging."
A performance of 21 Ukrainian, Polish, Belarusian mothers and their children.
The wartime rituals of violence against women are unchanging. War asks Europe the ultimate questions: about responsibility in the face of danger, and about our defense mechanisms. Out of the testimonies of mothers and children—Ukrainians, Belarusians and Poles: those who have fled war; those who have fled persecution; and, finally, those who have welcomed them in Polish homes—Marta Górnicka, director, initiator of the CHORUS OF WOMEN and the founder of the Political Voice Institute at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin, creates a choral performance with her cast.
The cast comprises 21 Ukrainian, Polish and Belarusian women aged 9 to 72, each with her unique political experience and a different life story; some are survivors from Mariupol, Kyiv, Irpin and Kharkiv. This CHORUS OF MOTHERS FOR WARTIME seeks a new post-operatic choral voice that draws from the female chori of the seventh century BC.
They mix Ukrainian nursery rhymes, traditional songs, incantations and political statements.
The performance For Wartime opens with a shchedrivka (Ukr. щедрівка) – a traditional Ukrainian song, a well-wish for happiness and rebirth. These date back to pre-Christian times and are likely thousands of years old. The ritual of singing a shchedrivka was performed by women only, or by women and children. It was always addressed to a particular person. People believed in the power of the song, trusting that its words and the well-wishes would surely come true. Today, these sung wishes are addressed to all people, for a new time; for their entire life.
reading of the libretto at Avignon Festival
Moïra Dalant: Your new project gives women who have been victims of war a space where they can talk.
For several months I have been working in a workshop in Warsaw with a group of 21 women affected by the nightmare of the war in Ukraine and the oppression of political persecution in Belarus. And with those who gave them shelter in Warsaw. I also work simultaneously with Ukrainian ethnomusicologists in search of what the war is unable to touch – the tradition of the living voice and Ukrainian singing. The paradox of this war is that thanks to it we penetrate so deeply into the culture of Ukraine.
The CHORUS is for me and the group of women I work with a tool to look at the defense mechanisms that war activates in us, a tool for recovering memory, but also voice and language. But not the voice of women as victims of war, but on the contrary – as its protagonists.
The transgenerational ensemble consists of women aged 8 to 71. They come from Kiev, Sum, Irpen, Kharkiv. They are survivors. They are refugees. They are witnesses of violence and bombings.Those who fled with their children to Poland, Warsaw, or other cities in Europe and beyond – want to speak today, use the power of their voice to name what is unnameable.
One of them, Natalia, brought to Warsaw – only one thing that she wanted to save from the war. Bandura, a traditional Ukrainian instrument that she did not want to leave to the war. This instrument is a symbol of the power of the voice and the power of women. The libretto of MOTHERS and the spectacle for the time of war, which we create together, will begin with a song, which is an old ritual, a song – a wish for prosperity, life and rebirth. It’s about finding together what’s alive in the rubble. In a meeting, in the CHORUS.
(Moïra Dalant in conversation with Marta Górnicka, fragment of the interview for Avignon Festival, March- July 2023)
Excerpt from Marta Górnicka’s speech in Avignon on 20 July 2023:
A war is being fought in Ukraine. This war has been happening for many months now. A war you might not know much about. A war which perhaps, from time to time, disappears from our field of vision. A war which is too close not to care—and maybe this is why we don’t want to think about it. Then, we easily switch from atrocious images to memes with cats and dogs on Facebook and Instagram.
This is why this performance is being produced.
A theatre of new forms of solidarity. And new rituals
A theatre which resonates with new voices, languages, bodies.
A place where a better world is imaginable and possible.
World Premiere: Teatr Powszechny, Warszawa, 29.09.2023
German Premiere: Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin, 04.11.2023
French Premiere: Maillon, Théâtre de la Ville de Strasbourg, 04.10. 2023
Marta Górnicka & ansamble
CHORUS OF WOMEN FOUNDATION, Warsaw
Elena Zui Voitekhovskaya
Wojciech Frycz, Marta Górnicka
Ukrainian traditional music
excerpt from Shchedrivka by Mikołaj Leontowicz
Costumes for the recording of the rehearsal
Olga Byrska, Maria Yasinska
Sound on the set
Przemysław Książek, Wojtek Białas
Translation to Ukrainian
Translation to English
Translation to French
CHORUS OF WOMEN FOUNDATION, Warsaw
Teatr Powszechny (Warsaw)
Maxim Gorki Theater (Berlin)
Maillon Théâtre De Strasbourg Scène européenne
Spring Performing Arts Festival (Utrecht)
Landestheater Niederosterreich et Tangente St. Pölten
Festival Für Gegenwartskultur (Austria)
Project is co-financed by the City of Warsaw
Teatr Dramatyczny (Warsaw), Nowy Teatr (Warsaw), Euro Scene Festival Leipzig, Ukrainian Institute, Foundation for Freedom (Warsaw), Independent Non- Profit Public Organisation Focused on Migrants from Ukraine, Chechnya, Belarus, Tajikistan, and Other Countries Who Settled in Warsaw, “Przystanek Świetlica” – Bus Stop: Community Centre, Day Room for Children and Youth of Migrants, Solidary Community Centre “Słonecznik”, Community Centre of Ukrainian Artists in Warsaw, Independent Foundation Platform Kalektar – Kalktar Org, a Research Platform on Belarusian Contemporary Art
The material was recorded during a rehearsal in Teatr Powszechny, Warsaw, on July 9 2023
Reading of the libretto, Cour du musée Calvet, Avignon Festival, 19.07.2013